Posted: Feb 27, 2012 5:31 PM by Russell Jones, Michael Shingleton
Updated: Feb 27, 2012 6:28 PM
BATON ROUGE - Public defender Nelvil Hollingsworth took a "personal leave" from his position today, according to the Baton Rouge Public Defenders office.
This comes after guards at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola arrested him Saturday. They said he was caught trying to smuggle marijuana into the prison in the lining of his jacket.
The public defenders office said today Hollingsworth decided to take a personal leave, and emphasized he had not been suspended. Mike Mitchell, the chief public defender, will handle Hollingsworth's cases while he is on leave.
Hollingsworth was at Angola to see one of his clients, Barry Edge, one of the so-called "Angola 5".
Warden Burl Cain said Hollingsworth's arrest came as a shock to him.
"We are really not quick to judge until he gives his explanation of what was the deal... It happened as far as we know and we saw it and the correctional officer did his job," Cain said.
Angola visitors go through a rigorous pat down process before they are allowed into the prison. Guards built a device similar to a phone booth that acts as a drug screening room. After a visitor is inside the room, a fan blows air throughout the area and through another small door where a dog can smell and determine if drugs are near.
"If he smells something, they'll isolate that individual and call the shake down crew in and go through the shake down procedures," K-9 Correctional Officer Johnny Dixon said.
Prison officials said Hollingsworth was checked outside Angola's front gate. During a pat down guards said they found marijuana sewn and hidden in the lining of his jacket.
Contraband is a problem Warden Cain and his officers continue to fight.
"We fight is as hard as we can, and it gets by through the visitors, through the correctional officers, what have you. If no one ever came in, we wouldn't have the problem," Cain said.
Public Defender Mike Mitchell will handle all of Hollingsworth's cases while he is on leave.